Should I Take a Gap Year?

It’s common for students to jump into four years of college immediately following their high school graduation. In contrast, however, a growing number of recent high school grads are choosing to take a “gap year,” otherwise known as a year off from their formal education before college. After being accepted into college, students might ask themselves, “Should I take a gap year?”

Scenarios where a student perhaps should take a gap year include wanting time off to get volunteering experience, search for a job or an internship, or travel to see the world. It is important to make sure if you do take a gap year for one of these reasons, your experiences will bring you something specific and beneficial to bring to your college experience, otherwise college admissions staff may not see the value in your gap year decision.

Should you take a gap year? Yes, if…

You’re unsure of a college major and future career

Some students who take a gap year are unsure of which academic paths they’d like to take in college. A gap year might give you the time you need to get a better direction of where you see yourself in the future. Going into college after a gap year with a focused academic plan can help you achieve more academic success than going straight into college without direction.

You know you’d benefit from a break from formal academics

Spending consecutive years in classrooms, libraries, and study halls can get tedious. If you’re feeling a little burnt out by academics following your high school graduation, it may be beneficial to take a little time “off.”

But note that a gap year isn’t a break from learning. Instead, it gives you an opportunity for self-discovery and skill development, which can be beneficial in college. If you choose to take a gap year, make sure it’s productive: fill it with work, pursue an internship, travel, or do other activities that help you develop your skills.

Should you take a gap year? No, if…

You have a hard time acclimating after academic breaks

If in high school, you’ve had a tough time getting back into the swing of school after your winter and summer breaks, you might want to avoid taking a gap year. Some students perform best academically when their education is continuous. It’s important to recognize that while time off can be helpful to some students, it can be a distraction to others.

Money is a concern

Scholarship packages can greatly benefit students who need financial assistance attending college. These packages can cover a variety of things, including:

  • tuition

  • housing

  • meal plans

There are many questions to ask your college about financial aid, and some you may consider asking prior to a gap year decision. If money is tight for you, taking a gap year—where you have to support yourself for an extra year before college—might be a financial setback.

Take note about gap year policies

Not all colleges permit accepted students to take gap years. Taking one at a college that doesn’t approve it, for instance, may result in your acceptance being revoked. That means if you want to attend that college after your gap year, you’ll have to reapply and be readmitted.

[RELATED: What to Do After You’ve Submitted Your College Applications]

At colleges that do permit students to take gap years, students are usually required to outline what they plan to do in their year (or sometimes two years) off before enrolling. Harvard University is one school that allows students to take gap years—in fact it encourages students to consider it! If a college approves a student’s gap year plan, the student will likely be required to submit updates on their activities to the college to show that they have a continued interest in attending.

If you think a gap year might be for you, make sure the college you really want to attend won’t revoke your admission if you decide to take a gap year. You should make sure you can commit to your college’s gap year requirements.

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